Connecting Safety Innovators at A+A

This will be the 34th edition of A+A and the organisers are looking forward to welcoming exhibitors, journalists and visitors to an arena filled with innovative impulses and solutions revolving around a safe and healthy working environment.

For 2023 the big mega trends of digitalisation and sustainability will serve as a thematic umbrella for this leading international trade fair.

Finally, the A+A International Congress and WearRAcon Europe will round off the high-calibre trade fair programme.

Under the motto “People Matter”, numerous exhibitors will present innovative solutions and concepts for safe and healthy working at A+A 2023.

Jobwear becomes more sustainable

The textile sector is switching to more sustainability. Particularly committed are the manufacturers of jobwear and personal protective equipment (PPE); but they also face special challenges. The latest trends and developments can be found at the Düsseldorf trade fair A+A.

Jobwear has passed practical tests in terms of circular economy. The “DiTex” project recently completed by the “Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW)” (Institute for Ecological Economic Research) found that industrial textiles can play a key role in the textile sector’s transition to durability, recyclability and repairability. Police officers and rescue forces tested the specially developed polo shirts, business shirts and bed linen complete with a rental textiles system for their everyday professional lives.

The result: they work. The ecologically optimised and recyclable selection of fibres and materials, a prolonged product lifecycle by renting rugged textiles that can be used for longer, digital tracking as well as the fibre recycling of these textiles – all this taken together can make the industry, whose operations are currently far from sustainable, an eco-minded one.

After over three years of research, Project Director Frieder Rubik of the IÖW sums up: “The DiTex textiles were designed to suit a closed-loop system and be recyclable. This is an important building block for a circular textile economy. But our project also shows: that recycling is not the only solution for solving the textile industry’s environmental problems. A circular economy comprises various strategies for improved resource efficiency – with products but also business models.”

The corporate fashion sector is highly committed

“The corporate fashion sector is highly committed to sustainability,“ confirms Thomas Lange, General Manager of the German Fashion Association. Forming part of this association is the Bespo Group which represents suppliers of workwear, jobwear and protective wear.

Lange identifies two drivers for sustainability: the Due Diligence Act and the EU Eco-Design Regulation. Both push the complete textile industry in the direction of sustainability. “Many SME manufacturers are not directly affected by this. Indirectly, however, they have to orient themselves towards it because public buyers specify them in their invitations to tender.”

The requirement of presenting a digital product pass featuring proof of the original materials and documentation of their recyclability drives digitalisation in the industry as a whole.

Protection in focus

However, the blended and composite fibres required especially in the PPE segment face companies with major challenges. “Here the focus is on protection and manufacturers are primarily committed to complying with legal requirements,” says Lange highlighting the challenge. This challenge is made harder by the trend towards multi-functionality: “Fire protection, chemical protection, high visibility – the more protective features textiles have, the higher the demands made on the fabrics and the harder it is to ensure their recyclability. This means all manufacturers have to do a high-wire act to comply with protective requirements and recyclability and sustainability.”

It is the chemicals in the fibres and fibre blends, in particular, that pose the toughest challenges for recycling operations. If the material cycles, i.e. the organic and the technical cycles, are inseparably interlinked, the textiles will be very hard or impossible to return to their source materials. This is why various manufacturers represented at A+A already embed recyclability in their approach to product design.

Materials account for a quarter of the carbon footprint

Nevertheless, at present less than 10% of all recyclable materials are actually re-used in the global textiles market, according to Textile Exchange; although material selection accounts for just under a quarter (24%) of the textile industry’s carbon footprint. Industry-wide investment in the circular economy as well as circular economy and closed-loop technologies and processes are therefore what’s needed. Only if the technical solutions are fully developed and become a mass standard will they result in an improved eco-footprint.

At present, the entire textile sector is in motion. The McKinsey study “State of Fashion 2022” found that 60% of all fashion companies are currently increasing their investment in closed-loop recycling solutions to mitigate their impact on the environment. One in eight managers (12%) view sustainability as the biggest potential growth driver.

One measure alone does not achieve the goal and old paths do not open new doors. This is why A+A will provide an overview of the wide range of new trends and developments in this field. The leading international Trade Fair for Safety, Security and Health at Work in Düsseldorf will have a clear focus on sustainability in October 2023.

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